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Public Transit

Downtown Bus Parking Lot Layover Facility

The proposed Downtown Bus Parking Lot would provide an off-street location for downtown San Diego transit vehicles to park in the short turnaround time they have between runs. Five alternative sites are being considered for the project located in the Columbia and Civic/Core districts of western downtown San Diego. All of the sites are near the America Plaza Trolley Station and Santa Fe Depot, one of the region’s largest transit hubs.

The parking lot would serve existing Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) buses as well as new, long-distance Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes that are being introduced to the region. The first BRT projects opened in 2014. These express transit services were approved by voters in 2004 as part of TransNet, the voter approved half-cent sales tax for regional transportation projects. BRT services that terminate in western downtown are also included in the Centre City Community Plan, adopted in 2006, to reduce automobile traffic downtown and throughout the region.

SANDAG will oversee the entitlement, design, and construction of the facility, which will be operated by MTS.

In the long term, SANDAG envisions that the bus parking facility would be part of a mixed-use development on the site. To that end, SANDAG is now exploring the possibility of developing a mixed-use development project downtown that could house offices for SANDAG, potential retail or other active uses, potential residential units, and the proposed layover facility for MTS buses and BRT vehicles.

Project Location

Five proposed sites are currently under consideration between Ash Street and B Street, and Kettner Boulevard and Union Street in the Columbia and Civic/Core districts in Downtown San Diego.

To ensure on-time transit service for downtown riders, the Downtown Bus Parking Lot needs to be located close to downtown transit routes that terminate near the America Plaza Trolley Station and Santa Fe Train Depot. Because most buses in the facility would park for 15 minutes or less, the close location ensures that buses operate on schedule. It also minimizes operational costs and the need for additional bus circulation on surface streets downtown.

The project would accommodate existing local bus routes that currently park on the street in western downtown, thereby making more on-street parking available to residents and businesses.

Project Need

The goal of the Downtown Bus Parking Lot is to provide a permanent off-street location for buses to park between runs, providing a central location for driver breaks, and freeing up on-street parking spaces and preserving existing spaces.

Currently, local buses park at reserved locations on downtown streets at the end of their routes, pausing for five to 15 minutes before their next scheduled service begins. This situation strains already limited downtown parking resources, creates additional congestion on local streets, and causes complaints from neighboring developments.

Project Features

Number of Vehicles
The proposed facility would begin operating at 4 a.m. and close at 1 a.m., with the highest use occurring in the morning and afternoon peak commute hours. The facility is expected to accommodate up to 18 vehicles at a time and about 35 vehicles per hour during the highest peak hour (fewer in off-peak hours). Current traffic volumes on India Street, Kettner Boulevard, and Ash Street are approximately 4,000 vehicles per day, or 200-300 vehicles per peak hour.

Length of Layover
The facility is intended to serve as a short-term bus parking lot only. Layovers would range from a few minutes to 15 minutes per vehicle. Buses would not idle with engines running while in the parking lot.

Maintenance would not be conducted at the site, beyond light activity such as refilling windshield wiper fluid and replacing light bulbs. Additionally, no buses would be parked at the facility overnight, and no passengers would be served at the facility (buses arrive and leave empty).

Facility Design
In order to make sure that the facility is compatible with the surrounding mixed-use neighborhood, SANDAG will work closely with area residents and businesses to design visual screening for the facility.

Project Status

SANDAG completed a site assessment analysis in 2015 to compare the environmental impacts and benefits of the five candidate sites.

On June 28 2012, the SANDAG Board of Directors voted to direct staff to explore the possibility of mixed-use development that could combine SANDAG offices, potential retail, potential residential, and a proposed layover facility for MTS buses and BRT vehicles.

Throughout the process, SANDAG will continue to engage the public to provide information about the project, answer questions and concerns, and seek input on design elements.

Project Costs

Approximately $16 million has been allocated to the project from TransNet, the local half-cent sales tax for transportation projects.

Project Manager

Miriam Kirshner, Senior Regional Planner
Phone: (619) 699-6995, Email:

For media inquiries, please contact David Hicks at (619) 699-6939 or